The tomatoes are starting to come in.
Short of eating BLT sandwiches every day for a week (Sacramento, we’re looking at you), among the best ways to enjoy these early garden prizes is to combine them with bread in two classics with Mediterranean origins: gazpacho and panzanella. (The first is a cool Spanish soup, the latter an Italian salad.)
The dishes are similar in their ingredients. Both use cucumber and onions, as well as stale or toasted bread, which is there to sop up or thicken those lovely tomato juices. You can boost the protein by tossing in some shrimp or crab.
And if you can’t decide between the two, try a hybrid: gazpacho panzanella, a salad from Cooking Light that adds rotisserie chicken for an easy summer meal.
And here’s a good reminder from the Chicago Tribune: “Recipes often call for ‘best quality’ this or that ingredient, in a manner that can come off as bossy. Risking that, the olive oil and vinegar used here will make or break the salad.”
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time (for bread cubes): 15 minutes
This colorful salad combines the best of gazpacho and panzanella. Chop the vegetables and toast the bread cubes ahead of time, but toss the salad right before serving because the bread will soak up the juices and become soggy if it sits too long. If you prefer a drier panzanella, simply add less dressing. Use olive oil-flavored cooking spray if you have it.
Recipe from Cooking Light.
4 ounces French bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 1/2 cups chopped seeded tomato (about 2 pounds)
2 cups chopped skinless, boneless rotisserie chicken breast meat
1 3/4 cups chopped seeded cucumber (about 1 pound)
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup vertically sliced red onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup low-sodium vegetable juice
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon water
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
To prepare salad, arrange bread cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet. Lightly coat bread cubes with cooking spray. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes or until golden brown, stirring once. Set aside.
Place tomato, chicken, cucumber, bell pepper, onion, and parsley in a large bowl; toss gently to combine.
To prepare dressing, combine the juice and remaining ingredients, stirring with a whisk. Drizzle over salad, tossing gently to coat. Stir in bread cubes; let stand for 5 minutes. Serve immediately.
Per serving: 294 calories (24 percent from fat); 8 g fat (2 g sat.); 27 g protein; 4 g fiber; 60 mg chol.; 553 mg sodium; 68 mg calcium
Crab and chili pepper gazpacho
Prep time: 30 minutes (plus 8 hours chill time)
Cook time: 30 minutes
You can use more jalapeño pepper or a hotter pepper for a spicier version.
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens magazine. Tested by Susan Selasky for the Detroit Free Press.
6 large tomatoes, cored, halved and seeded
1 thick, stale piece sourdough bread
1 medium sweet onion, cut in wedges
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, coarsely chopped
1 medium bell pepper (yellow, red or green) seeded, coarsely chopped
2 medium jalapeño chili peppers, seeded and cut up
2 cups favorite vegetable juice (regular, hot or spicy)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar, or more as needed
Salt and black pepper to taste
2 cans (6 ounces each) canned crabmeat, drained, flaked and cartilage removed
Chopped fresh chives for garnish
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place tomatoes (cut sides up), onion and garlic on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast 30 minutes or until tomato skins are charred. Peel off skins.
While tomatoes are roasting, prepare the other ingredients.
Soak the bread slice in water for several minutes and squeeze out excess liquid.
Place tomatoes and bread in food processor and process until smooth. Transfer to large serving bowl. Place onion, garlic, cucumber, sweet bell pepper and chili peppers in food processor. Cover; pulse with on/off turns until chopped to desired consistency.
Add processed vegetables, vegetable juice, lemon juice, olive oil, sugar, salt and black pepper to tomato mixture. Stir to combine. Cover and chill at least 8 hours or overnight.
Spoon gazpacho in bowls. Top with crabmeat. Sprinkle with chives.
Per serving: 140 calories (26 percent from fat), 4 g fat (1 g sat.), 17 g carbohydrates, 10 g protein, 321 mg sodium, 28 mg cholesterol, 3 g fiber.
Panzanella with shrimp
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 4 minutes
The traditional dish calls for soaking the bread in broth then squeezing out the excess liquid. If you prefer the bread with more body, skip that step.
Note: If using wooden skewers, soak them in cold water for 30 minutes before using.
Recipe from the Chicago Tribune.
1 pound garden fresh tomatoes, cored, roughly chopped in large pieces
1 English cucumber, chopped in 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup sweet onion, chopped in 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 day-old baguette, cubed in bite-size pieces (or 6 ounces of another rustic bread)
1 pound medium shrimp, shelled, deveined
Mix the tomatoes, cucumber and onion in a large bowl. Pour the olive oil and vinegar over them. Stir to combine; season with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir in the bread cubes. Set aside while you grill the shrimp. Stir occasionally so the bread can absorb liquid thrown off by the vegetables.
Thread the shrimp on skewers; season with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. (Brush shrimp with a little vegetable oil to prevent sticking, if you like.) Grill over medium heat, turning once, until just cooked through, 4 minutes. Remove from skewers; toss with the panzanella salad.
Per serving: 377 calories, 9 g fat (1 g sat.), 229 mg cholesterol, 38 g carbohydrates, 36 g protein, 1,008 mg sodium, 3 g fiber.